Lydia Sweatt is a writer, bookworm, and bass guitar enthusiast. When she goes outside, a bicycle goes with her.
Why Chasing Viral YouTube Videos Is Overrated [for Small Creators]
Going viral is the worst thing that can happen to a small YouTube creator.
If you're wondering why anyone would say that out loud (or write it), we get it. It sounds wrong. After all, what's so bad about getting millions of views on YouTube?
For new creators, the real danger is becoming obsessed with unrealistic expectations. Going viral is hard to do, which means it's nearly impossible to repeat.
Chasing that high without a deep understanding of YouTube could send anyone down a dark, twisted path — and here's why.
1. Viral Views Don't Always Come From Your 'Real' Audience
Truth moment: When you join YouTube to chase viral trends, you ignore your core audience.
We made this mistake a few years ago on the vidIQ channel. Two creators were in a tight race to have the most-subscribed YouTube channel (PewDiePie and T-Series), and the topic was trending off the charts. We wanted some of that buzz for ourselves, so we made videos about the subject to attract more viewers.
Things didn't go according to plan. We gained many subscribers, but they didn't stick around to watch videos about our main topic: YouTube education. New viewers showed up for the drama, and when the trend was over, they abandoned our channel.
Meanwhile, loyal viewers begged us to bring back our old videos.
So, take it from us: If your core audience doesn't care about a trend, neither should you.
2. Sometimes, Going Viral Comes with Criticism
Before you go viral, few people know who you are and what you're about. They don't know your deeply-held opinions, personal values, and controversial takes on hot topics.
All of that changes when you gain a little fame. More people pay attention and chime in with their opinions, good or bad. Thousands of people could say you make inspiring videos to change the world, and thousands could you make "terrible" content they don't want to see.
If the feedback is mostly negative, that can destroy a small creator who's still finding their voice and core audience. On top of that, it's just tough to bounce back after being mocked online.
3. Going Viral Is Addictive
There's no denying the emotional high that comes with going viral. It appeals to our deepest human desires, like the need to be seen, understood, and appreciated.
But feeling like the king or queen of social media is addictive. If you're not careful, you could make any video on any topic just to feel the power of going viral.
Beneath one of our videos, gaming creator Zeden described what it's like to go viral as a small creator — and it wasn't fun.
"This has happened to me," they say. "I've got two videos that hit over a million that got kind of blessed by the algorithm out of nowhere. Then attempting to chase those view counts was honestly impossible. Yet I felt bad about videos I did make or deviated from that style of videos regardless."
Before you "plan" a bunch of viral videos, make sure you're going down a realistic path for your channel.
4. Viral Trends Can Be Risky
It's impossible to name every internet challenge that caused severe harm, injury, or death. And to make sure those trends don't re-surface, we're not going to share them in this article.
But we will say this: You shouldn't attempt every hack, challenge, or trick you see online. Go after challenges that are either 100% safe, are within your physical ability, or make viewers feel good about what they watched because no one got hurt.
For everything else, it's helpful to ask two questions:
- Am I putting myself or others in danger?
- What are the long-term consequences of doing this challenge?
5. Going Viral Skews Your Perception of Quantity vs. Quality
Chasing viral moments on YouTube creates one of two extremes. On one end of the scale, you spend too much time creating the perfect, high-quality video to get more views. On the opposite end, you make too many videos (even low-quality ones) to get a viral hit.
Both mindsets are dangerous because they don't take your audience into account. They force you to produce either too much or too little content, making it hard to appease an audience.
Of course, the sweet spot is somewhere in the middle.
The best thing you can do is find the maximum number of videos your audience will watch daily and stick to that number. That ensures you have their full attention for a long time.
6. Chasing Virality Takes the 'Social' Out of Social Media
It's hard to satisfy your audience and create viral videos simultaneously. One requires you to understand a specific group of people's likes, goals, and motivations. The other forces you to cast your net wider, so millions pay attention to your content.
But if you cater to millions, you cater to no one. You don't get to connect with a real community, so there's no shared interest to build off of. Plus, people can usually tell when you're in it for the views. You won't come across as genuine, inspiring, or relatable — qualities that put the "social" in social media.
7. Planning to Go Viral Creates Unnecessary Pressure
It doesn't matter how many times you've gone viral on YouTube. No one is asking or even expecting you to accomplish that again. Most of the time, people look for entertaining, satisfying, or informative videos. So they're not thinking about your last viral video or that the current one has fewer views.
With that in mind, there's no reason to put unnecessary pressure on yourself. Viral or not, just make good content for your audience.
Rethinking Viral Moments
In a world where everyone wants to be noticed, it's best to follow that old, cliché advice: Just be yourself.
Connect with your audience on a deep level. Record when you have something valuable to say. And most of all, create content that makes you feel good and positively impacts society. And if a viral video comes, celebrate it and move forward. Don't obsess.
Want to learn more? This video further explains the danger of "chasing virality."
Another way to avoid toxic virality (yes, we just made that up) is to rethink the word "viral." If you typically get 100 views per video, you should celebrate when you start getting 400 views, 500 views, 600 views, and beyond.
Because compared to where you were, that is your viral moment. You deserve to celebrate it as such!